时间 : 16-06-22 栏目 : 提升软实力 作者 : 老薛 评论 : 1 点击 : 1,222 次
I did something yesterday that doubled my daily coding
performance. It was easy, cheap, and made a tremendous difference in my
Some of you may already know what it is. For the rest of you, its going to sound wacky.
I stopped working.
Or rather, I set a timer for 50 minutes, during which time I worked
on only one task — no emails, no IMs, no games, no distractions. At the
end of the 50 minutes, I went for a walk.
It doubled my productivity, and as a side effect increased my happiness with my work.
I know what many of your are thinking. I’ve heard all of the common pushbacks whenever this (or the more specific Pomodoro Technique) is mentioned.
Let’s take them one-by-one:
Won’t this break up my concentration on this really tough problem I’m trying to solve? Oddly, and counter-intuitively, no. As your mind relaxes while you do
something else, it will continue working on your problem, many times
making breakthroughs and putting together pieces of the puzzle that you
never would have accomplished because you’re looking at the problem from
afar, in the background, instead of being all tied up in it.
How do you stop? I don’t even look at the clock when I’m coding. Yesterday I used a microwave timer, but I was so astounded at the
difference in my performance that I ordered a stopwatch, pictured above
I have all sorts of interrupt-driven things in my life, emails, IMs, cell-phone text messages. This will never work for me. I have a rule: no interrupt-driven devices allowed during my time
on-task. After my break, I take a few minutes to do all sorts of
interrupt-driven responses: I check my email, respond to IMs, and return
calls. Only after that work is completed do I start the timer.
Seems like it would add unnecessary stress to my life. Actually it does, but in a good way. I found myself struggling to see
how much work I could accomplish in each section. I naturally started
breaking my work into smaller pieces, and would push myself to see if I
could finish the piece in the timebox. But it wasn’t stressful. We have
another word for pushing ourselves to achieve better and better
performance: fun. I had fun. It made a tough problem more into a game.
How much time do you spend off-task? I don’t know.
Beats me. I went for a walk — a long enough walk to take at least ten
minutes. One time I went out on the deck and ate an orange while
listening to nature. That time I set the clock for a ten-minute
countdown so I would be sure not to come in early.
Can I just do anything I want when I’m off-task? I
don’t think so. I think you have to do a singular activity that
mind-blanking. Walking, ping-pong, playing a musical instrument,
meditating, napping. I think that activities which include
moderate exercise and goal-oriented challenges — especially those
outside — work better than others, but I’m only guessing.
What’s the trick? The trick, in my opinion, is that
forcing your mind to disengage with a problem that it is highly attached
to causes some subconscious tension: your mind is really wanting to get
back to that problem. So it continues to work on it and think about it.
The more you tear your mind away from the work, the harder it will push
to get back to it. The more dramatic the stop, the more involved you
are in the problem, the farther you take your mind away from what you’re
doing, the more it’s going to want to get back to it. This makes your
mind work much more effectively than simply staring at the monitor
and/or typing up a bunch of junk. You’re able to step back and see the
big picture. I can guarantee you, you have all sorts of better ideas
about what you should be doing once you sit back down. It’s almost like a
mini-code and design review running as a background task while you
If you’re so smart, how come you’re just starting this? Hmmmm. Here is where our story takes a turn for the worse: I used to do
this all of the time! In fact, I found that after doing this for a
while I was able to dynamically allocate time-on and time-off task. I used to code like a banshee, but I stopped.
Why did I stop? Because as browsers became more and more interactive,
and computers became more and more interruptive, I found that I started
subconsciously confusing the entertainment value of computers with the
work value of computers. I’d work a bit, then flip over to HackerNews,
then read a couple of interesting articles, then work a bit more, then
maybe comment some, then over to email, etc.
What I was doing seems so obvious in retrospect: I was bombarding my
mind with all sorts of new stimulus to process. It couldn’t work on my
“main” problem because I was busy flipping back and forth between
perhaps dozens of different stimulus-producing programs. Remember the
goal here is to switch from being single-minded on a programming problem
to being single-minded on something that has nothing to do with
programming. If you’d like to be entertained by your computer, you can
do it before you start work, during your lunch, or in the time before
you start your next cycle. The more I look at modern computing, the
more I am convinced that this general-purpose, entertainment-driven
aspect of computers is diametrically opposed to using them as
creative-work-producing machines. Over the years I’ve just slowly
stopped doing micro-sprints and spent more and more time being
“immersed” in the computing world. Not a good thing for your brain,
This is such a simple thing it’s probably very difficult for you to
imagine it could work. But give it a shot — who knows what you might
As a side note, an interesting observation from all of this is that
physically separating our electronic devices by function may be one of
the other great hidden productivity boosters. (And a way to prevent
slowly blurring the lines in your mind between a passive and an active
APPEND: Several readers wrote and noticed how similar this is to the
Pomodor technique. If you’re interested in following this up more, I
suggest you take a look a the material.
By the way, months ago I decided to start using Amazon affiliate
links in all my blogs. I guess I should put this on the side-bar, but
haven’t had time to rebuild the blog lately. Also, speaking of Amazon
affiliate links, if you’re into hacking yourself and technology, and
love startups, check out my micro-site hn-books.com.
I took all the books that hackers recommended to each other and put
them in a sortable ranked list, along with reviews and internet searches
of all the conversations.</self-promotion-housekeeping stuff>